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Temple signs 23 to National Letters of Intent

Matt Rhule AP

(Below is Temple’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

PHILADELPHIA (2/6/13) – The Temple University Football Program, under the leadership of first-year head coach Matt Rhule, signed 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Geographically, the states best represented in the Owl class are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ten student-athletes list their hometowns in the Keystone state, while 10 hail from the Garden state.

Additionally, two signees call New York home; one signee comes from Virginia.

Temple’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked in the BIG EAST Conference at No. 7 by Rivals.com and No. 9 by Scout.com. The Owls’ earned the top ranking in the Mid-American Conference in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

Ten of the 19 high school signees attended the Temple Football Camp (53%). Over the past four years (2010-13), 71 percent of the signees have attended the Temple Football Camps.

Seven of the signees—Dion Dawkins, Paul Layton, Jihaad Pretlow, John Rizzo, Averee Robinson, Adrian Sullivan, and Kiser Terry— enrolled in classes in January 2013. Layton is a transfer student from the University of Albany.

The Owls begin spring practice on March 22 in preparation for BIG EAST Conference play in 2013. The squad’s annual Cherry & White spring game is slated for Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m. at Edberg-Olson Hall. Temple returns 46 letterwinners and 15 starters, including Freshman All-American and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Tyler Matakevich.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 23 members of Temple’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jarred Alwan
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-1 • 215
Cherry Hill, N.J. • Camden Catholic HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked the No. 23 player in the state of New Jersey … played for coach Gil Brooks at Camden Catholic HS … participated in the North-South Game … selected Temple over Boston College and West Virginia.

Personal: Jarred Alwan … born November 30, 1993 … parents are Narci and Gamal Alwan … plans to study risk management and actuarial science in the Fox School of Business.

Matt Barone
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 280
McKees Rocks, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked 13th nationally at center … played for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011.

Personal: Matt Barone … born March 2, 1995 … Montour teammate Tyler Haddock is a fellow Temple signee.

Buddy Brown
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-2 • 205
Williamstown, N.J. • Williamstown HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, had 87 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles … participated in the North-South Game… selected Temple over more than 20 other BCS offers, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Personal: Shawn Brown, Jr. … born July 13, 1994 … parents are Tiffany and Shawn Brown, Sr. … has two sisters— Destiny (21) and Brianna (16) … father is a retired police officer … loves history … Williamstown teammate Jullian Taylor is a fellow Temple signee … considering a double major in kinesiology and business.

Brian Carter
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 280
Harrisburg, Pa. • Harrisburg HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Calvin Everett at Harrisburg HS … three-year starter … 2012 first-team All-Mid-Penn Conference honoree on offense … selected to participate in the Big 33 Game … selected Temple over Connecticut.

Personal: Brian Carter … born November 7, 1994 … parents are Melody Fleming and Melvin Washington … guardian is Tracey Smith.

Jim Cooper, Jr.
Placekicker/Punter • Freshman • 6-1 • 205
Linwood, N.J. • Mainland Regional HS

High School: U.S. Army All-American … three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Robert Coffey at Mainland Regional HS but kicking coach was his father, Jim Sr. … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Personal: James Cooper, Jr. … born October 19, 1994 … parents are Marie and James Cooper, Sr. … father was also a kicker at Temple (1983-86) under head coach Bruce Arians.

Dion Dawkins
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 330
Rahway, N.J. • Rahway HS • Hargrave Military Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played offensive tackle for coach Troy Davis during the 2012 season … bolstered an o-line that helped the Tigers rush for more than 150 yards per game … selected Temple over Cincinnati.

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Gary Mobley at Rahway HS … graduated in 2012 … participated in the North-South Game.

Personal: Dion Ray Dawkins … born April 26, 1994 … parents are Lisa Dawkins and Eric Dawkins.

Sharif Finch
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-4 • 210
Henrico, Va. • Henrico HS

High School: Played linebacker for coach Roger Brookes … as a senior, had 84 tackles and five sacks … as a junior, had 161 tackles and 10.5 sacks … selected Temple over Miami and East Carolina.

Personal: Sharif Finch … born October 1, 1995… parents are Wendy Finch and Greg Finch … originally from Queens, N.Y.

Artrel Foster
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 170
Meadville, Pa. • Meadville HS

High School: Played cornerback and running back for coach Mike Feleppa at Meadville HS … four-year varsity starter … in prep career, had 4,248 all-purpose yards, including 3,249 rushing yards on 499 carries, 37 touchdowns, 130 tackles, and six interceptions … 2012 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for 101 yards in 2012 season opener against Northwestern … named one of the Top 100 juniors in Pennsylvania … 2011 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and sophomore … as a junior, had three interceptions … also a 2012 first-team All-Region honoree in basketball on defense and second-team All-Region on offense … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … also played basketball … selected Temple over Cincinnati and Penn State.

Personal: Artrel Jonte Foster … born June 24, 1995, in Meadville, Pa. …. parents are Tammy Foster and Art Bell … has an older sister, Asia Foster (24), and a younger brother, Armoni Foster (13) … cousin is Wade Manning, former WR/CB (1979-82) for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos … considering a career in graphic design or athletic training.

Tyler Haddock
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-2 • 290
Pittsburgh, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-year letterwinner at defensive tackle for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … unanimous All-Parkway Conference selection as a two-way player … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … in prep career, had 120 tackles and 15 sacks … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011 … totaled 100career tackles, 26 TFL, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries at the end of his junior season … also a three-year letterwinner in wrestling … went 60-29 … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … started in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … Honor Roll student … active with Big Brothers/Big Sisters … selected Temple over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Personal: Tyler James Haddock … born December 16, 1994, in Pittsburgh, Pa. … parents are Sharon Jones and John Jones (stepfather) … Montour teammate Matt Barone is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study sports management.

Todd Jeter
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 169
Monroeville, Pa. • Gateway HS

High School: Played wide receiver and defensive back for former coach Terry Smith, now at Temple, at Gateway HS … also returned punts … 2012 All-State selection … 2012 Quad East All-Star … 2012 second-team All-Foothills Conference honoree on defense … helped the Gators to a 9-2 record in 2012 en route to a Quad East championship with a perfect 8-0 record … team advanced to the WPIAL AAAA playoffs … as a senior in 2012, had 322 receiving yards and two touchdowns while making 27 tackles and two interceptions … averaged 20 yards per catch … played for the North squad in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected for the 2013 Big 33 Game.

Personal: Todd Jeter … mother is Renee Boswell.

Leon Johnson
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-6 • 300
Plainfield, N.J. • Bound Brook HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Dom Longo at Bound Brook HS … as a senior, had 20 tackles, including 15 solo stops … also played center for the Crusaders’ basketball team … selected Temple over South Florida and Ohio State.

Personal: Hubert Leon Johnson … prefers middle name … born June 4, 1995 … mother is Valerie Graves.

Paul Layton
Punter • Senior • 6-1 • 215
Burnt Hills, N.Y. • Ballston Lake HS • Albany

Transfer student from the University at Albany … enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … graduated in December 2012 … has one season of eligibility.

Honors: 2012, 2011, and 2010 first-team All-Northeast Conference honoree … 2012 College Football Performance FCS Punter Watch List … 2012 All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team … named the 2011 Great Danes’ Most Valuable Special Teams Player (team award) … named a 2011 ECAC Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Special Team All-Star … Northeast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week (twice) … 2010 NEC Academic Honor Roll … 2009 Capital District Student Scholarship.

College: Three-year letterwinner at punter for head coach Bob Ford at the University at Albany … averaged 41.0 yards in career. 2012: Played in all 11 games at punter … averaged a league-best 40.4 yards per punt, including a program record 82-yarder vs. Wagner (11/3) … punted 46 times with 11 sailing 50-yards or longer … dropped 15 within the 20-yard line. 2011: Averaged 42.6 yards per punt, ranking 9th among the national leaders … booted 17 kicks of 50 or more yards. 2010: Averaged 40.1 yard per punt as a redshirt freshman … ranked 31st among the national leaders and third in the Northeast Conference … placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line, including seven for touchbacks … booted 50-plus yard punts 12 times … tied 13th-longest punt in school history with 69-yarder in season finale against Monmouth … kicked a 63-yard punt at Duquesne and a 61-yarder at Maine. 2009: Redshirted. Selected Temple over Penn State and Notre Dame.

High School: Four-year letterwinner for coach Matt Shell at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake HS … 2008 Class A first-team All-State selection by New York State Sportswriters Association as a kicker … made 68 of 69 PATs and three field goals … third on all-time Section II kicking list with 77 points … averaged 42 yards per punt … all-time leader in Section II history with 172 career kicking points … 2008 Large School Offensive Player of the Year by the Albany Times Union … first-team All-Area by Daily Gazette and Troy Record … led high school to state championship game as a quarterback … passed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns … rushed for 1,186 yards and 20 TDs … BHBL won second sectional title in last three years … consensus All-Area punter as a junior, when he averaged 41 yards per attempt … earned third-team All-State honors as a quarterback … career stats: 2,861 passing yards, 34 passing TDs, 2,002 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs … four varsity awards as basketball guard … two-time team captain … National Honor Society member … Math Honor Society member … Business Honor Society member … participated in Big Brothers.

Personal: Paul K. Layton … born November 5, 1990, in Burnt Hills, N.Y. … parents are Karen and Jim Layton … has two older sisters, Jessica (32) and Lauren (26), and an older brother, Steve (30) … all siblings were college athletes … brother played tight end at Union College … Jessica played soccer at Syracuse, and Lauren played field hockey at SUNY Oswego … graduated from Albany in December 2012 with a degree in business administration… pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

Jihaad Pretlow
Defensive Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 185
Elizabeth, N.J. • Blair Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Jim Stone at Blair Academy … as a junior, rushed for 838 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Bucs went 7-0 overall … also made four interceptions as a defensive back … played two seasons with nationally ranked basketball team … selected Temple over Connecticut, Penn State, and Rutgers.

Personal: Jihaad Pretlow … born March 15, 1994 … parents are Bayyinah Pretlow and Malik Jackson … father played football at Rutgers in the early 1990s … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee P.J. Walker.

Shane Rafter
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 282
Moorestown, N.J. • Moorestown HS

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Russ Horton … three-year letterwinner … 2012 All-County honoree on defense … helped the Quaker to the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs … as a junior, had 61 tackles and three sacks … the first player to commit to Temple in the 2013 class … participated in the 2011 National Underclassmen Combine … also a two-year letterwinner in track and ice hockey … selected Temple over Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse.

Personal: Shane Rafter … born July 7, 1994 … parents are John and Barb Rafter … has a sister, Jamie.

Semaj Reed
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-7 • 270
Philadelphia, Pa. • Haverford School

High School: Played defensive end for coach Michael Murphy at the Haverford School … also played basketball … selected Temple over Buffalo and Maryland.

Personal: Semaj Reed … mother is Jacqueline Reed … originally from Newburgh, N.Y. … interested in political science, criminal justice, and business.

John Rizzo
Fullback • Freshman • 6-1 • 221
Johnstown, Pa. • Richland HS

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Brandon Bailey at Richland HS … 2012 Tribune-Democrat first-team All-Area … as a senior, rushed for 1,769 yards and 20 touchdowns … played in the East-East Game … three-time state heavyweight wrestling champion … selected Temple over Penn State, Pitt, and Georgia Tech.

Personal: John Rizzo … born February 13, 1993 … parents are Lynda and Tony Rizzo … has six siblings— Anthony (26), Marlena (24), Frank (23), Joe (21), Christina (15), and Mario (14).

Averee Robinson
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-1 • 285
Harrisburg, Pa. • Susquehanna Township HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy.

High School: Played defensive tackle for coach Joe Headen at Susquehanna Township HS … 2011 Harrisburg Patriot-News first-team Defensive All-Star … as a junior, had 46 tackles and eight sacks … also wrestled … won consecutive PIAA heavyweight wrestling championship in 2012 and 2011… attended the 2010 Temple Football Camp.

Personal: Averee Robinson … born October 17, 1993 … parents are Terry and Adrian Robinson, Sr. … older brother is former Temple Owl and three-time first-team All-MAC DE Adrian Robinson (2008-11) who just finished his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adrian Sullivan
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 270
Babylon, N.Y. • Babylon HS • Worchester Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played one season for coach Tony Johnson at Worcester Academy (Mass.) … Honor Roll student.

High School: Played offensive tackle and defensive end for coach Rick Punzone at Babylon Junior-Senior HS … team went 15-6 his last two seasons … named to the 2012 Best Players on Long Island Honor Roll for basketball.

Personal: Adrian Sullivan, Jr. … parents are Sonja Stewart and the late Adrian Sullivan, Sr. … uncle is former Temple and current San Diego Chargers assistant coach Andrew Dees.

Jullian Taylor
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 230
Glenside, Pa. • Williamstown (N.J.) HS

High School: Versatile athlete … played defensive end, tight end, and linebacker for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … 2012 All-State, All-Mid Athletic, All-Group 5, and All-South Jersey honoree … team went a perfect 12-0 en route to the 2012 state Class 5 championship as a senior, had 60 tackles and 14 sacks … participated in the North-South Game … volunteered for Mastery Charter School’s beautification project … selected Temple over Iowa and Virginia Tech.

Personal: Jullian Patrick Taylor … born January 30, 1995, in Philadelphia, Pa. … parents are Rufus Taylor and Rolanda Brewer … has a younger brother, Jay (8), and a younger sister, Mia (8) … father is a Temple alum who was a walk-on the men’s basketball team in 1989 … Williamstown teammate Buddy Brown is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study business.

Kiser Terry
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 260
Feasterville, Pa. • Neshaminy HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy … saw action at defensive end.

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … selected to play in the 2012 Big 33 Game and the 2011 Chesapeake Bowl … team captain … played defensive end and tight end for coach Mark Schmidt at Neshaminy HS … 2011 PA Football News Honorable Mention All-State honoree … 2011 EasternPAFootball.com Honorable Mention All-State selection … 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer first-team All-Southeastern PA pick … 2011 Suburban One first-team All-Conference honoree … 2011 Neshaminy Mr. Lineman coaches’ award recipient … 2010 second-team All-Conference selection … Redskins went 12-2 in 2010, his junior season, and advanced to the District 1 AAAA championship game … as a junior, had 47 tackles, including 40 solo stops, a team-best six sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Personal: Kiser Terry … born August 11, 1993 … mother is Betty Terry … older brother Terrell Channell lettered in football at Temple in 2006.

Jahad Thomas
Running Back • Freshman • 5-10 • 170
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Ranked the fourth-best running back in the state of New Jersey … all-purpose back for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … helped team to the 2012 state title … participated in the North-South Game … captained two sports as a junior … starter on the nationally ranked basketball team.

Personal: Jahad Thomas … born November 6, 1995 … parents are Connie Thomas and Eddie Roberts … Elizabeth HS teammate P.J. Walker is a fellow Temple signee.

P.J. Walker
Quarterback • Freshman • 6-1 • 200
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Dual-threat quarterback for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … 2012 Newark-Star Ledger State Offensive Player of the Year … helped team to the 2012 state title … as a junior, one of the state’s most accurate passers … went 120-of-189 (63.5 percent) for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns … in the NJSIAA sectional final against Piscataway, threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 199 yards and a touchdown … four-year starter … participated in the North-South Game … also played basketball … team reached the 2012 Group 4 final … selected Temple over Connecticut and Rutgers.

Personal: Phillip Walker, Jr. … born February 26, 1995… parents are Tamicha Drake and Phillip Walker, Sr. … Elizabeth HS teammate Jahad Thomas is a fellow Temple signee … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee Jihaad Pretlow.

Zaire Williams
Running Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 188
Sicklerville, N.J. • Timber Creek HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked by Rivals as the No. 36 overall running back and New Jersey’s 16th-best player overall … played for coach Rob Hinson … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected Temple over West Virginia.

Personal: Zaire Williams … born October 25, 1994 … father is Bruce Williams.

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Dawgs calling Hogs? Arkansas up on Mizzou at the half

Arkansas v Missouri

The biggest fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks reside in Fayetteville and surrounding areas.  The second-biggest?  At least for this weekend, they reside in Athens, Georgia… and they’re extremely bullish on the Hogs right at the moment.

Through two quarters of play in Columbia, UA is taking it to SEC East-leading Missouri 14-6.  Brandon Allen, whose availability leading into the game due to injury was somewhat questionable, completed 7-of-10 passes for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

While the Razorbacks’ defense saw its shutout streak end — they hadn’t allowed a point in the last two games — they did hold the Tigers to 121 yards of first-half offense, including just 22 on the ground and an average of 1.3 yard per carry.

If Missouri can mount a second-half comeback and win, it would be headed to its second consecutive SEC championship game.  If Mizzou loses, Georgia would claim the East based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Arkansas, incidentally, will get the ball on offense to start the second half.

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‘Huskers rally past Iowa… and save Pelini’s coaching skin in process?

Nebraska v Iowa

Those sounds you may have heard toward the end of the second quarter of the Nebraska-Iowa game? It was a mob in Lincoln firing up their torches and sharpening their pitchforks.  Whether what happened over the next two-plus quarters — and extra time — has quieted the grousing and grumbling in the nation’s heartland, however, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that Nebraska mounted a massive comeback, in part because Iowa failed to capitalize on first-half opportunities… and then failed to put the game away late… and then stunned the Iowa City crowd in overtime to “steal” a 37-34 win.

The Hawkeyes took a 24-7 lead at the midway point of the second quarter, although the damage could’ve — and likely should’ve — been much, much worse. Twice in the first half, the Hawkeyes drove into the red zone, and inside the 10-yard line even, only to turn the ball over to the Cornhuskers. At worst the lead at that point should’ve been 30-7; at best, it would’ve been a seemingly insurmountable 38-7 deficit for the ‘Huskers on the road.

Instead, the ‘Huskers dodged those bullets and began firing some of their own. A touchdown with :20 left in the second quarter cut the lead to 24-14. NU then shut Iowa’s offense down for most of the second half while scoring 14 points on offense/special teams to take a 28-24 lead.

De’Mornay Pierson-El‘s 80-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter was looking like the winning score until a Jake Ruddock five-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan Canzeri with 1:49 remaining put the Hawkeyes back on top 31-28. Tommie Armstrong Jr. then led the ‘Huskers on a drive that was capped by a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Iowa’s possession in the first overtime resulted in a field goal.  On Nebraska’s possession, Armstrong Jr. tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell that, after a replay review, gave the Cornhuskers the come-from-behind win.

Despite the dramatic win that showed the tremendous heart on that squad, the questions surrounding Bo Pelini‘s future with the program will still swirl.

Nebraska improved to 9-3 on the season with a bowl game remaining. In each of Pelini’s previous six seasons in Lincoln, the ‘Huskers had lost four games; they’ve won 10 games in three seasons and nine in three others. Is that enough for the fan base and, more importantly, the administration?

It’s not that the Cornhuskers are a bad program under Pelini, it’s that they’re not even remotely the Cornhuskers of Tom Osborne.  Or, more to the point, they’re not even the Cornhuskers of Frank Solich.  In Osborne’s 25 seasons, NU never lost four games in a season and only lost three games in a season eight times.  Certainly Osborne is a lofty barometer for Pelini, but it’s not beyond the pale to think that the Cornhuskers should’ve returned to the national stage at some point during the current coach’s seven-year tenure.  Hell, Solich lost three or fewer games in four of his six seasons — either one or two losses in three of those years — and can claim one conference championship to go along with two other division titles; Pelini hasn’t even won a division title, let alone a conference one, in a tenure that’s one year beyond what Solich got from the university.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Pelini remain with the Cornhuskers.  It also wouldn’t be a shock to see the two sides part ways.  Either way, it’s a situation that bears monitoring as the 2014 coaching carousel gets set to swing into high gear.

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NIU stakes claim to West divisional MACtion

MAC Logo

Northern Illinois came into Friday needing only a win over Western Michigan to secure a spot in the MAC championship game. As it turns out, the Huskies did just that.

Things looked bright for NIU early on as they scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 65-yard catch-and-run between quarterback Drew Hare and wide receiver Daniel Braverman that was 99-percent run. The Broncos, however, scored the next 21 points to take a 14-point lead deep into the second quarter.

From then on, though, it was all Huskies. NIU kicked a field at the end of the first half to cut the deficit to 21-10, then scored 21 second-half points to put the finishing touches on the 31-21 win.

The win means NIU will now face East winner Bowling Green in the MAC championship next Friday in Detroit.  The Huskies have now won five straight West division titles, and have won two of their last four championship game appearances.  They’ve appeared in five total in the 17-year history of the event.

WMU would’ve won the West with a win over NIU and a loss by Toledo this afternoon.  Toledo would’ve won the West with a win over Eastern Michigan and an NIU loss.

The Broncos have nothing to be ashamed of, however, as they went from 1-11 in 2013 to 8-4 in 2014 with a bowl game (probably) still in the offing.

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Ohio State issues statements on missing player

Kosta Karageorge II

As the search a missing Ohio State football player continues, the university has publicly addressed the situation for the first time.

Kosta Karageorge has not been seen since leaving his on-campus apartment very early Wednesday.  The search, which is now in its third day, involves the Columbus Police Department and the player’s family and friends, and came after the family filed missing person’s reports with three different police departments.

Karageorge, a senior walk-on, did not show for practice Wednesday or Thursday.  Karageorge’s head coach asked anyone with any knowledge of the defensive lineman’s whereabouts to contact authorities.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Kosta Karageorge and we pray that he is safe and that he is found soon,” Urban Meyer said in a statement. “He is a young man who joined the football team in August and was a hard worker on the field and pleasant off the field. He has been an important player in practice for us, right up until the time he was reported missing. If anyone knows anything about his whereabouts, please help his family and contact the authorities.”

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Karageorge’s sister, Sophia Karageorge, pointed to a history of sports-related concussions and sometimes becoming disoriented that has the family understandably worried. In that vein, the football program also released a statement attributed to the team’s physician, Dr. Jim Borchers.

“First and foremost, our primary concern is for the health, safety and welfare of Kosta,” the doctor said. “While we are not able to discuss or comment about the medical care regarding our student-athletes, we are confident in our medical procedures and policies to return athletes to participation following injury or illness.”

Again, anyone with any type of information on Karageorge’s whereabouts is being asked to call 614-747-1729.

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Marshall, WKU lighting up first-half scoreboard, stat sheet

Chris Thomas

It appears that Marshall is celebrating its rise to the Top 25 of the latest College Football Playoff rankings by giving its defense the weekend off.  And, in the spirit of sportsmanship, it appears the Herd’s opponent is following suit.

The two teams combined for a staggering 91 first-half points, with the 24th-ranked Herd trailing the 6-5 Hilltoppers 49-42 (not pictured).  They were a mere field goal away from tying the FBS record for most points in a half by both teams set during the North Texas-Navy game in 2007.  That game also set the record for most points in regulation by both teams at 136, a mark that is obviously in reach.

Another record that’s within reach?  Single-game total offense for both teams, set during the 2001 San Jose State-Nevada game (1,640); through two quarters, Marshall-WKU has seen 840, 462 for the latter and 378 for the former.

Of the 13  touchdowns scored in the game, 11 of them came on touchdown passes — six for WKU’s Brandon Doughty, five MU’s Rakeem Cato. The FBS record for a half is seven by several players, most recently by Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz in 201 vs. USC.

Marshall has already clinched the Conference USA East title and, with a win, would host the conference championship game next weekend in Huntington.

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Blech Friday: Hawkeyes atop ‘Huskers in first-half turnover fest

Iowa v Nebraska Getty Images

If you wanted to put a DVD in a time capsule to explain to future generations — or aliens — how Big Ten football is viewed by most of the country, the Black Friday Nebraska-Iowa would do the trick.

At the end of two quarters of play, the Hawkeyes lead the Cornhuskers 10-7 in Iowa City.  The game’s first touchdown, not so unexpectedly, came on a 17-yard interception return by Iowa’s John Lowdermilk in the middle of second quarter.  The only other touchdown, a five-yard pass from NU’s Tommie Armstrong Jr. to Ameer Abdullah with :20 seconds left, came after the sixth turnover of the half.

The offenses from both sides were, well, offensive for the better part of the first half.  Or, if you prefer, the defenses were stellar.  Either way, it was a half that made offensive aficionados cringe and/or throw up a little bit in their mouths.

Midway through the second quarter, the two teams combined for 150 yards of offense (Iowa 110, Nebraska 40); the Hawkeyes would finish the half with 178 yards and the Cornhuskers 92.  The Cornhuskers didn’t complete a pass until there were less than two minutes left in the second quarter, and 34 of their 49 first-half passing yards came on one play.

Iowa had five first-half possessions, and those ended with two interceptions, a fumble, a field goal and taking a knee at the end of the half.  Two of those turnovers, incidentally, came in the red zone, while the fourth of the four led to NU’s lone score.  The Hawkeyes also fumbled a punt back to the ‘Huskers to account for their four turnovers.

Nebraska had six possessions, those of which ended in a pair of punts, a missed field goal, the pick-six, another interception and the touchdown.

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Amidst SMU talk, Chad Morris says he’s ‘completely focused on SC’

Syracuse v Clemson Getty Images

Thanksgiving night, multiple media outlets reported that Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has been tapped as SMU’s next head coach.  One website reported that Morris would make $3 million-plus annually on a multi-year contract, with the hiring expected to be announced the first week of December.

While that may ultimately be the case, none of the sides involved are inclined to confirm.

Clemson officials have not commented on the reports thus far, while SMU athletic director Rick Hart told USA Today in a text message late Thursday night that there is “no deal with anyone yet.”  For his part, Morris downplayed the talk while also stating that his focus is on the game at hand.

Unreal, everyone thinks they know,” the coordinator said in a text message to The Clemson Insider. “Sorry completely focused on SC.”

Clemson is putting its finishing touches on Saturday’s annual in-state rivalry game with South Carolina.

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Search for missing Ohio State football player continues

Kosta Karageorge III

The search for an Ohio State football player who has been missing since the middle of the week continues the day after Thanksgiving.

Kosta Karageorge, a walk-on reserve defensive lineman for the Buckeyes, has not been seen since leaving his on-campus apartment around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.  Karageorge’s family has filed a missing person’s report, and the Columbus Police Department is involved in the search.  A report has also been filed with police departments in Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington.

According to Karageorge’s sister, Sophia, there were “some extenuating circumstances that night that lead us to believe he was upset” prior to him leaving his apartment. Karageorge did not show up for practice Wednesday or Thursday, which only adds to the family’s fears.

He never misses practice,” Sophia Karageorge told the Columbus Dispatch. “I’ve seen him go to wrestling practice with a broken foot. I’ve seen him sick as a dog go to practice. He’s always on schedule. He always has somewhere where he checks in.”

Kosta Karageorge IIThe Dispatch writes that Karageorge “was wearing black sweatpants over his jeans, black Timberland boots, a black hoodie with FOC on it and a black beanie on his head” when he left his apartment; the picture to the left is Karageorge shortly before his disappearance.  On OSU’s official website, Karageorge is listed as being 6-3, 273 pounds. He has a short beard and, according to the paper, he recently shaved his head.

Anyone with any type of information on Karageorge’s whereabouts is being asked to call 614-747-1729.

For those in and around Columbus, a cell phone trace by the Columbus PD showed Karageorge being in the area of W. 3rd and Elmwood avenues in Grandview Heights at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. A motorcycle he owns remains at the apartment complex, while “he does not have his car on campus,” the sister said. Additionally, Karageorge is carrying no identification as his wallet is with his girlfriend.

Sophia Karageorge pointed to a history of sports-related concussions and sometimes becoming disoriented that has the family understandably worried.

“We’re very concerned that he’s not himself and that he maybe doesn’t know what’s going on,” the sister told the Dispatch. “Every time he’s had a concussion, he’s been evaluated and listened to his trainers. He’s been properly taken care of by OSU the entire time he’s been an athlete for them.

“But … his repercussions from them have been long-term or delayed later after the fact.”

Family and friends will be reassembling at 1 p.m. ET this afternoon to resume the search for Karageorge.

(All photos courtesy of the Karageorge family)

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Sorting through the Group of Five conference title scenarios

Tiebreaker

Not surprisingly, most of the college football world’ attention is focused on the Power Five conference teams and the College Football Playoff heading into the last full weekend of the 2014 regular season.

There are, though, other goings on in the sport, namely conference races for the other five conferences dubbed the Group of Five.  All five of those leagues have yet to see an undisputed 2014 champion decided; four of those, though, will crown a champ — or co-champ — this weekend, with the AAC being the lone exception (possibly).

With that as a backdrop, here are those various clinching scenarios for the Group of Five leagues:

AAC
Memphis sits at 6-1 with one conference game remaining (vs. UConn), while Cincinnati and UCF are each 5-1 with two games each left (at Temple and vs. Houston for the former, at USF and at East Carolina for the latter).  This conference, however, does not have a championship game, so its method for determining its champ is laid out in the league’s weekly notes package:

In the event of a tie for the American Athletic Conference title, any tied teams would be declared co-champions. There is no formal conference tiebreaker policy for this season. The College Football Playoff committee would be able to select any of the tied teams for a New Year’s bowl game, based on the committee’s rankings.

Memphis is the only team that could claim the outright championship in Week 14, and that would happen if it won and Cincinnati and UCF lost.  Memphis, with a win, is also the only AAC team that can claim at least a co-championship this weekend.

CONFERENCE USA
EAST
At 7-0, Marshall has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

WEST
This division is nearly as simple as the winner of the Week 14 game between Louisiana Tech (6-1) and Rice (5-2) will face Marshall.

Another issue for the conference to be decided is where the title game will be played.  If Marshall beats Western Kentucky Saturday, the Herd will host the Louisiana Tech/Rice winner in Huntington.  If Marshall loses and Rice wins, Marshall would again host.  If Marshall loses and Louisiana Tech wins?  I’ll go ahead and allow the conference to lay out the particulars:

If Marshall loses to WKU on Friday and Louisiana Tech defeats Rice, both teams would have the same conference record (7-1). Marshall and Louisiana Tech do not play in the regular season, eliminating the head-to-head tie-breaker, the second tiebreaker after conference record. Therefore, the CFP ranking is the next tie-breaker. If neither team is in the top 25 of the CFP Rankings, average select computer ranking (Anderson and Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix and Wolfe) would be used to determine host.

MAC
EAST
At 5-2, Bowling Green has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

WEST
Three teams at 6-1 all remain alive in the divisional race: Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.  NIU and WMU play late Friday morning, while Toledo faces Eastern Michigan a couple of hours later.  What follows are the scenarios for each to claim the West:

Northern Illinois wins the West if… It beats Western Michigan; NIU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Toledo.
Toledo wins the West if… It beats Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois loses; UT holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Western Michigan.
Western Michigan wins the West if… It beats Northern Illinois, Toledo loses.

MOUNTAIN WEST
MOUNTAIN
Boise State, Colorado State and Utah State are all 6-1 entering the last week of the regular season, with Boise State and Utah State playing late Saturday night and Colorado State traveling to Air Force.  Here are the clinching scenarios for each team:

Boise State wins the Mountain if… It beats Utah State; BSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Colorado State.
Colorado State wins the Mountain if… It beats Air Force and Boise State loses to Utah State; CSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Utah State
Utah State wins the Mountain if… It beats Boise State and Colorado State loses to Air Force.

WEST
With two teams at 4-3 (Fresno State, San Diego State) and two at 3-4 (Hawaii, Nevada), the West is a clusterf… well, you know.  So much so, in fact, that I’m just going to let the conference put this one into the barn:

  • Fresno State: wins the division with a win over Hawai‘i.
  • San Diego State: wins the division with a win over San José State and a Fresno State loss to Hawai‘i.
  • Hawai‘i: wins the division with a win at Fresno State and losses by Nevada (at UNLV) and San Diego State (vs. San José State).
  • In the event Fresno State loses to Hawai‘i, Nevada defeats UNLV and San Diego State falls to San José State, it will create a four-team tie atop the West Division standings at 4-4. In that scenario, Fresno State clinches the division based on the MW divisional tiebreaking procedures.

SUN BELT
As is the case with the AAC, there is no conference championship game in the SBC.  Georgia Southern (7-0) has already clinched a share of the 2014 title in its first season in the league, with a win over Louisiana Monroe Saturday giving them the undisputed title.  Louisiana-Lafayette can earn a co-championship with a win over Troy combined with a Georgia Southern loss.

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Ramifications 101: Setting the table for Week 14

Turkey AP

You may have already cleared your tables of all of the Thanksgiving fixings, but here at CFT we’re just setting ours up.

From rivalry games with little or nothing on the line but pride to matchups dripping with conference and College Football Playoff implications, the plates served up on Friday and Saturday will be a veritable smorgasbord on the final full week of the 2014 regular season. If storylines whet your appetite, be prepared to gorge yourself as these last two days are full of them.

With that in mind, here’s a portion of what we’ll be paying attention to Power Five-wise over the next 36 hours or so.

PLAYOFF PICTURE CLARIFIED?
In a simplistic and minimalist view, the answer to that is no, it won’t be clarified. It very likely will, however, come into sharper focus.

By most accounts, a two-loss team won’t be in the running for one of the four playoff spots. If that indeed comes to fruition, there are seven teams that still hold out viable playoff aspirations: unbeaten and third-ranked Florida State, as well as the one-loss sextet of No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 5 TCU, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Baylor.

All seven of those teams play this weekend, and all seven will, to some degree or another, be favored. However, five of those seven games involve rivalries; as we all now, though, when it comes to a rivalry game, point spreads and records are tossed out the window.

Especially in the case of the two SEC squads, the favored team would be wise to be on high alert.  So, on a scale of 0-10, with 0 representing “no chance in hell” and 10 being “DEFCON 1 COACH-SPEAK AHEAD,” here are the five rivalry games involving the seven highest-ranked teams:

Chris DavisAlabama-Auburn, 9
Were it not for Auburn entering the Iron Bowl having lost three of its last five games against SEC teams, and it being played in Tuscaloosa, this matchup would’ve rated a solid 10.  Not only is Alabama playing for an SEC title and the right to stay in the playoff mix, they are also looking to exact a little revenge for last year’s Kick-Six.  Even if they wanted to, don’t look for Nick Saban & Company to let his players look past The Plainsmen in any way, shape or form.

Oregon-Oregon State, 5
OSU comes into the Civil War reeling, dropping six of its eight Pac-12 games thus far.  Oregon, though, doesn’t have to look back any further than last year to realize they’d better not peek past their in-state rivals.  In 2013, the Beavers, losers of four straight coming in, put a scare into the 12th-ranked Ducks and came away one point shy, 36-35, from upsetting UO in Eugene.  With this edition of the rivalry being played in Corvallis, and the Beavers looking to snap a six-game losing streak in the series, the Ducks can’t afford to allow their collective minds to wander beyond Saturday night.

Florida State-Florida, 7
With a very quick glance, it all seems to favor FSU.  The Seminoles are riding a 27-game winning streak, while the Gators are about to launch a national search for a new head coach.  The thing is, the ‘Noles have escaped with a handful of wins over the last couple of months.  Meanwhile, the Gators have actually improved over the last month, and their defense (11th in scoring, 23rd in yards) will be one of the best the Seminoles have faced all season.  I’m not saying Florida will upset Florida State in Tallahassee; all I’m saying is that the conditions are ripe for one.  What’s the axiom, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?  2014 Seminoles, meet the 2004 Seminoles.  Enough said.

Continue reading »

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No. 5 TCU makes Texas-sized playoff statement

Trevone Boykin

It was not a particularly good day for football teams from the state of Texas. The Dallas Cowboys were blown away by the Philadelphia Eagles in NFL action. Texas A&M was handled by LSU. At least No. 5 TCU (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) put together a huge win that is sure to create some discussion in the College Football Playoff conversation in the coming days. TCU was in a defensive battle with Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12) for a while, but the Horned Frogs pulled away in wild fashion for a resounding 48-10 victory.

TCU quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the fourth quarter and Josh Carraway returned an interception 33 yards to put the final stamp on a blowout victory that took a while to feel so decisive. It was not Boykin’s best night, as he was under pressure from the Texas defense for much of the night. Boykin still managed to throw for 233 yards and two touchdowns and run for another 50 ards and flip into the end zone for another.

The biggest takeaway from this game may have been TCU’s ability to close out a win. They did so in fashion, holding the Texas offense to 290 yards and forcing six turnovers in the game. It was the kind of night that could be enough to help TCU move up a spot in the next College Football Playoff ranking even if Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State all win this weekend. It also helps to potentially create some breathing room ahead of Ohio State and, yes, Baylor.

Baylor still owns the head-to-head edge over TCU, but that has not helped the Bears in ranking ahead of the Horned Frogs in the playoff rankings. It is beginning to get to the point where the results against similar opponents are starting to move the needle more in TCU’s favor as well.

TCU beat Texas by 38 points. Baylor beat Texas by 21.

TCU beat Oklahoma State by 35. Baylor beat Oklahoma State by 21.

TCU beat Oklahoma by four. Baylor beat Oklahoma by 34.

TCU beat West Virginia. Baylor lost to West Virginia.

For Baylor, the best thing to do now would be to dominate and blowout Kansas State to level the playing field against teams not named Texas Tech or Kansas. Baylor plays Texas Tech this weekend and Kansas State to wrap up the regular season.

TCU has one final game to play, next week at home against Iowa State. Look for Boykin and the Horned Frogs to pile up points in one final chance for a closing statement while conference championship games are being played.

The regular season is over for Texas, but at 6-6 the Longhorns will be going to a bowl game.

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LSU breaks even in SEC with Thanksgiving win at Texas A&M

Leonard Fournette, Deshazor Everett

LSU (8-4, 4-4 SEC) may not have been a typical power in the SEC this week, but the Tigers managed to end the year with a 4-4 record in conference play. The Tigers needed to hang n for a 23-17 victory at Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5 SEC) to do it, but Les Miles and company will take it.

LSU chewed up big yards on the ground against Texas A&M’s defense. Freshman Leonard Fournette led the attack with 146 rushing yards and a touchdown and quarterback Anthony Jennings added 119 yards. It was a big night for the LSU offense, which racked up 492 yards against the Aggies.

Texas A&M managed to make a game of it in the second half. The Aggies scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to cut LSU’s lead down to 20-17, but LSU put the game away with a late field goal and an interception of Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen. Texas A&M managed just 228 yards of offense against the Tigers.

LSU will now head to the postseason for a 15th straight season. Texas A&M is also heading to the postseason, but will be limping into the bowl line-up out of the SEC. Texas A&M lost five of its final seven games this season, and the need to improve on defense is clear. You know, Will Muschamp is available. Kevin Sumlin can clearly recruit, but the Aggies are going to have to step up on defense in order to catch up with the rest of the conference and make a legitimate run in the SEC West.

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Reports say SMU will hire Clemson OC Chad Morris lead rebuilding of program

Chad Morris

The job search at SMU has reportedly come to a close, although there is no official word confirming this information at this time. According to multiple reports surfacing Thursday night, SMU will hire Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to be its next head coach.

The news was first reported by Cemetery Hill. Chip Brown of Horns Digest later reported the same information.

Morris is the highest-paid assistant coach college football according to a recent database of coaching salaries in college football compiled by USA Today. Though the highest-paid assistant coach in the game, Morris has continued to be a potential head coaching option if the right job came along. Is SMU the best fit for Morris?

If this does come together as it is being reported, Morris could have a shot at building something at SMU. The program has nowhere to go but up, so he would need to be guaranteed some time to put his plans in motion. This means solid job security for Morris, a Texas native. Being a native of the state should help open some recruiting doors as well. Just because SMU is in Texas though, des not mean recruiting will come easy.

There is also the impact this would have on Clemson. Morris has been a terrific asset for Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff, and the offense has thrived at times under his sideline leadership. If Morris is leaving for SMU, when he would leave the Tigers is also unknown. Clemson plays South Carolina this weekend.

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TCU takes advantage of Texas miscues to build 20-3 halftime lead

Trevone Boykin

You might not think it by looking at the halftime score, but No. 5 TCU and Texas are locked in a solid defensive battle. The only difference has been Texas has lacked the ability to protect the football in the first half. The Longhorns have two turnovers, and TCU has slowly put together a 20-3 lead at the half.

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has been intercepted once and lost a fumble once. The fumble was extra costly, as TCU’s Terrell Lathan returned it 40 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. That put TCU up 13-0 at the time and was the only touchdown until TCU’s David Porter caught a short pass from Trevone Boykin late in the second quarter. Boykin has completed 13 of 18 passes for 106 yards and the touchdown, and he has added 10 rushing yards.

TCU has not found much to work with on the ground, with just 31 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Texas has played well on defense and is the only reason this game is still somewhat within reach if the offense can start putting points on the board. Texas actually reached the halftime with more offensive yards than TCU (144-137), but that total was boosted by the final play of the half, when Swoopes scrambled for a 27-yard gain as the clock expired. That came after a 17-yard run by Swoopes just before it.

TCU looks to be in good position to pick up a win in Austin, which continues to put the pressure on Baylor in the Big 12 championship race. It also will help keep TCU in good position in the College Football Playoff, entering the week ranked fifth by the selection committee.

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LSU defense locks down Aggies for halftime lead

LSU v Texas A&M Getty Images

LSU’s offense has been on the field for over 20 minutes in the first half and has out-gained Texas A&M by over 200 yards. LSU is only winning at the half by a score of 17-7, but if the defense continues playing at this level that might be OK.

Texas A&M recorded the first big play of the half when Trey Williams rushed 41 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Aggies, there has not been much else to speak of on offense. Kyle Allen continues to start under center for Texas A&M. In the first half, Allen completed eight of 11 passes for 23 yards. Seven different Aggies have caught a pass, but no player has more than nine receiving yards. Texas A&M has just 80 yards of offense, compared to LSU’s 286 yards.

LSU tied the Aggies with a powerful 22-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Leonard Fournette in the second quarter. LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings has used his mobility to his advantage as well and leads the Tigers at the half with 94 rushing yards. Jennings also threw a touchdown pass to John Diarse late in the first half to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead. LSU added a 31-yard field goal off the leg of Trent Dominique in the final seconds of the half to pad the lead, 17-7.

 

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